While I was painting the examples for last week’s blog, “The Power of the Poster,” I was struck by how the second, yellow-dominant example reminded me of paintings by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. Born in Paris, France, in 1796, Corot became a leading painter in the Barbizon school of landscape painting that favored realism from life versus the neoclassical romantic depictions of the landscape. These notions of painting en plein air were heavily influenced in the early 19th century by the works of Englishmen John Constable and J.M.W. Turner. Corot’s works are often highly refined and demonstrated the popular romanticism tendencies of the time period, but as he matured, his paintings became looser and demonstrated more of a poetic use of brushwork and tone, laying the foundations for the Tonalist Movement in American art. While Corot had an aversion to the shocking use of color, and the up-and-coming Impressionists would ultimately embrace its vivid use, his roots in working en plein air, his profound manipulation of tone, and his well-thought out compositions laid the groundwork for the subsequent movement. At the end of his life in 1875, he was heralded as one of the six greatest landscape painters the world had ever seen and regarded with great personal affection among artistic circles.
Inspired by Corot, I decided to paint a pastel utilizing a more tonalist approach, using the yellow poster sketch as my major reference. When starting a pastel, I typically rely on a lighter pastel surface and a more vivid color underpainting to set the foundation. This produces a more impressionistic, serendipitous start that often leads to creative responses with pastel. To emphasize the importance of tonality for this painting, I instead choose Belgium Mist Wallis paper, which is a warm mid-value, and began with a light pastel application, utilizing harder pastels like Cretacolor and NuPastel brands. It was important to concentrate on major value relationships and rely on more neutralized (grayer colors) for this underpainting; otherwise, the Corot effect would be compromised (see Stage 1 image reference).
Next, I wet the pastel layer with denatured alcohol to set it into the surface. Since alcohol will have a slight softening effect on Wallis paper, the pastel pigment will embed into the surface, providing a solid under-foundation once the alcohol evaporates. To better control the pastel, the initial application of alcohol can be sprayed onto the surface with a pump atomizer. For a more painterly effect, a brush and alcohol can be utilized. Additional pastel can be applied and re-wetted to effect. Keep the pastel thin. Otherwise the tooth of the surface may become filled, making subsequent pastel applications difficult (see Stage 2 image reference).
MORE RESOURCES FOR ARTISTS
• Get Richard’s book and DVDs as a specially priced Value Pack!